Mastering Fillers: How to Say Um in Japanese – Easy Language Guide

If you’re learning the Japanese language, you may have noticed that native speakers often use fillers like “um” in their conversations. While these filler words may seem unimportant, they play a crucial role in Japanese communication, helping to convey meaning and express emotions.

In this section, we will explore different ways to say “um” in Japanese, providing you with a comprehensive guide to master fillers in the Japanese language.

By incorporating these phrases and words into your speech, you can elevate your language skills and sound more natural in Japanese conversations. So, let’s get started and learn how to say “um” in Japanese.

First, it’s important to understand the Japanese word for “um.” In Japanese, the word for “um” is “ano” (あの). However, there are many other filler words that can be used in different situations, and we will explore them in the following paragraphs.

So, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner, this guide will provide you with the tools and knowledge you need to effectively use fillers like “um” in your Japanese conversations.

Understanding Fillers in Japanese

Before you start mastering fillers like “um” in Japanese, it’s important to understand their significance in Japanese communication. Fillers are informal words or sounds used to keep a conversation flowing smoothly. They are used to fill pauses and indicate that one is still thinking or processing information.

Unlike in English, where fillers like “um” and “uh” are considered a sign of hesitation or lack of confidence, in Japanese, fillers are an essential part of natural conversation.

Japanese speakers use fillers to convey a sense of politeness, empathy, and understanding. They also serve to soften direct speech and create a more relaxed atmosphere.

Because fillers are informal, they are not used in formal conversation or situations where politeness is required. However, they are a crucial element of casual conversation and can add authenticity and naturalness to your speech.

Examples of informal fillers in Japanese include “ano,” “eto,” “ne,” and, of course, “um.”

Expressing “Um” in Japanese

The most common way to express “um” in Japanese is through the use of the word “eto.” This sound is often elongated, so it sounds more like “eeee-to.”

Another way to express “um” in Japanese is through the use of “ano” or “ano ne.” These expressions serve the same purpose as “um” and are used to signal hesitation or indicate that one is still thinking.

It’s worth noting that in Japanese, fillers are often accompanied by nonverbal cues, such as nodding, eye contact, and body language. These cues help to reinforce the sense of understanding and empathy conveyed through fillers.

Now that you understand the significance of fillers in Japanese conversation, let’s dive into specific ways to use them effectively.

Common Phrases with Um in Japanese

Filler words like “um” play a significant role in Japanese conversations, and omitting them may make your speech sound unnatural. Therefore, memorizing and using common phrases with “um” can enhance your fluency and make you sound more native.

Here are some common phrases that use “um” in Japanese conversations:

Japanese Romaji English
ええ、えっと、そうですね。 Ee, etto, sou desu ne. Uh, well, let me see.
あの、そういえば。 Ano, sou ieba. Uh, by the way.
うーん、そうかな。 Uun, sou kana. Hmm, I’m not sure.
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Using these phrases where appropriate can help you sound more natural in Japanese conversations. Remember that the use of “um” and other fillers is more common in informal situations, and using them in formal settings may not be appropriate.

Finding the Right Context for Fillers

Using fillers in Japanese conversation allows for a more natural flow of speech. However, it’s important to understand the appropriate contexts for their usage to avoid sounding forced or out of place.

One of the most common contexts for using fillers like “um” is during pauses in conversation, especially when you need a moment to gather your thoughts. Using “um” in these instances can help signal to the listener that you are still engaged in the conversation and give you time to formulate your response.

Fillers are also commonly used in informal settings, such as conversations with friends or family. Using “um” in these contexts can signal a more casual tone and help build rapport with the listener.

It’s important to note that using fillers excessively can also detract from the natural flow of conversation. Pay attention to the pace and tone of the conversation and use fillers sparingly to enhance your speech without distracting from the topic at hand.

Alternative Ways to Express Um in Japanese

Besides the commonly used filler word “um,” there are alternative expressions that convey similar meanings. These phrases offer variety to your language and can enhance your fluency in Japanese conversation. Below are some examples:

Expression Meaning
Ano Literally means “that.” Used as a space filler in conversation similar to “um.”
Eto Used as a space filler just like “um.”
Sou desu ne Literally means “is that so?” An interjection used to indicate agreement with a speaker and to prompt them to continue.
Sorekara Means “and then” or “after that.” Used as a transition in conversation when shifting topics.

By incorporating these alternative expressions into your language, you can add authenticity to your speech and diversify your use of fillers in Japanese conversation. Practice using them in the appropriate contexts to strengthen your fluency.

Mastering Fillers in Japanese: Tips and Techniques

If you’re looking to improve your fluency in Japanese, mastering fillers is a must. Using fillers like “um” is an informal but crucial aspect of natural conversations. Here are some tips and techniques to help you master fillers, including the Japanese word for “um”.

1. Listen carefully

The first step in mastering fillers is to listen carefully to natural Japanese conversations. Take note of when and how “um” is used, as well as other fillers and informal words. This will help you understand the context in which fillers are used and how they contribute to natural conversation flow.

2. Practice with a partner

Practicing with a partner is a great way to improve your filler usage. Have a conversation and intentionally use fillers like “um” to create a more natural flow. Your partner can give you feedback on your usage and help you identify areas for improvement.

3. Focus on intonation

The intonation of fillers is just as important as the words themselves. Pay attention to the rising and falling tones of “um” and other fillers in natural conversations. Try to replicate these patterns in your own speech to further enhance your fluency.

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4. Don’t overuse fillers

While fillers are important in creating natural conversations, it’s important not to overuse them. Too many fillers can make you sound hesitant or unsure of yourself. Use fillers sparingly and in appropriate contexts to enhance your speech.

5. Use alternative expressions

As mentioned earlier, there are alternative expressions that can be used in place of “um” to convey similar meanings. Experiment with these expressions to find what works best for you and to expand your vocabulary.

By following these tips and techniques, you’ll be well on your way to mastering fillers like “um” in Japanese conversations. Incorporating fillers into your language learning journey is an easy language guide to sound more native and enhance your fluency.


Congratulations on taking the first step in mastering fillers like “um” in your Japanese language learning journey. As we’ve discussed throughout this article, using fillers is a crucial component of natural conversation flow in Japanese. Incorporating these fillers into your speech helps you sound more native and fluent.

Remember to use fillers like “um” appropriately in the right context to avoid sounding unnatural or forced. With consistent practice and exposure to Japanese conversation, you’ll soon be using fillers with ease.

Keep Practicing

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. Mastering language skills takes time and effort, but with consistency and dedication, you can achieve your goals. Keep practicing and incorporating fillers like “um” naturally into your Japanese speech for optimal results.

Thank you for reading this easy language guide on how to say “um” in Japanese. We hope it has been beneficial to your language learning journey. Happy practicing!


Q: How do I say “um” in Japanese?

A: In Japanese, the word for “um” is “ano” or “etto.” These fillers are commonly used to pause and gather thoughts during conversations.

Q: Are fillers like “um” informal in Japanese?

A: Yes, fillers like “um” are considered informal in Japanese. They are often used in casual conversations rather than formal settings.

Q: Can you provide examples of common phrases with “um” in Japanese?

A: Sure! Some common phrases that include “um” in Japanese are “ano ne” (well), “etto, sou desu ne” (well, that’s right), and “ano, maa” (um, well).

Q: In what context should I use fillers like “um” in Japanese?

A: Fillers like “um” are used to create pauses and indicate thinking or hesitation. They are commonly used when responding to a question, providing an answer, or expressing uncertainty.

Q: Are there other ways to express “um” in Japanese?

A: Yes, besides “ano” and “etto,” you can also use phrases like “sou desu ne” (that’s right), “mou ichido” (one more time), or simply remain silent to convey similar meanings.

Q: What tips and techniques can help me master fillers in Japanese?

A: To master fillers like “um” in Japanese, practice natural conversation flow, observe native speakers, and listen to Japanese audio content. Incorporate fillers into your everyday speech to enhance your fluency.

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